Guest blog: Work Ethic by Kiah Stan-Bishop
For any normal person it was a Tuesday night like any other. For me it was the second last night I would spend inside the comfort of a familiar environment. You see I’m putting my faith in the future of Agriculture and following my passion for the industry that makes this nation tick across the country. So on this particular Tuesday night I checked out twitter to see the #AgchatOZ questions for the week. The topic was education and training, and dwindling enrolments into Ag institutions were being discussed. One particular question asked if it was simply a lack of skills or lack of ‘work ethic’ that was the issue.
Critically, the respondents to the question were not the students of the day, but rather students of years past. After observing Agchat for the last 6 months I’ve noticed that there seems to be the recurring topic of attraction and retention of students into the agricultural sector, and a great deal of feedback coming from the same people each time, a small minority actually being current students. The purpose of this piece is to share the challenges, highlights and my thoughts on attracting people to pursue an Ag education.
Therefore let me introduce myself, I’m a 19 year old girl from Western Australia and I had the luxury of growing up in a mixed urban/rural setting. In 2012 I commenced studying a Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Science. I found ten people in my cohort studying the same thing. This was the first challenge I faced, my other friends thought I was stark raving mad to be pursuing a career in a “dying” industry, and quite honestly with such a small cohort I almost thought I was too.
This brings me to the second challenge I faced, Financials. Don’t get me wrong there are some great scholarships out there (ACAS, Horizon etc…) but I really had to search to find them, and found that I was either a) ineligible or b) had missed the closing dates. I have a friend in her second year of studying engineering, this year she got a laptop and a $2000 bursary just for being there.
Third Challenge. Public perception. The general public don’t realise how diverse agriculture actually is. Forgive me for being crude but if I told someone I was studying Ag, the general response was “What, so you’re going to be a farmer?” The current media sledging of agricultural industries has led to people not only misinterpreting the word “Agriculture” but associating it with what they see on their telly and read in the papers, people believe what the media are telling them. How can you study what you love when people are publicly condemning you for it?
These challenges seriously had me considering changing my career path. Then it got to August and I was lucky enough to receive a partial scholarship from Esther Price Promotions to attend a conference in Adelaide, it was there listening to Luke Bowen and David Farley, that I was re-inspired to persevere with my studies. I then attended another conference on the Gold Coast a month later on a partial scholarship from ALFA.
This particular conference led me to make one of the biggest choices in my fledgling career. I’m moving to NSW to continue my studies. Why? I got to listen to some great speakers and had the accessibility to ask questions and follow it up afterwards. People actually cared about what I thought even though I was a student, and I had some great conversations with people who knew the industry inside and out. All of these people had been to the same university.
One night at Dinner I met a Cattle Baron from Albury who proceeded to ask me “What the bloody hell are you doing at a beef conference if you don’t know what a tenderloin is?” After replying that I was here to learn, he proceeded to explain the cut and its marbling to me. People took the time to listen and patiently explain, and for that I was grateful for the opportunity to learn. I had so much fun, even saw in a gold coast sunrise. And when it came time to leave, I found myself in a taxi with said Cattle Baron again (sorry for not giving you the front seat!) and was wished the best of luck.
Its events like these that made me want to continue with Agriculture and pursue my passion. As students we need more accessibility to them, the student priced ticket and student scholarships are a fantastic idea, please keep them coming. We do want to be there and we do want to learn from you. Agricultural Industries do not have money to burn and I recognise that, but please sing it from the hilltops when you do have a scholarship to offer.
Another point on scholarships, with our current graduate requirements not being met, maybe it’s time to reconsider some selection criteria? Where a person lives and what they achieved in high school are not always the best indicators of character. And its character and passion that are going to be the key elements in securing the longevity of our sector.
Lastly, please have faith in us. As students we need opportunities to develop our learning in a practical environment. Please, come to all the career nights, forums and expos. Keep the youth targeted events coming, we need more social events targeting different age groups to attract more students and show off how diverse agriculture truly is. Social media is a great way to approach us direct about what we want and what we see happening to agricultural education.
So, in conclusion, no, it’s not my work ethic you need to be worried about.